Before Maria Sharapova started earning millions as a professional tennis player, she and her family had little to nothing: At age six, the Russian-born athlete and her dad moved to the U.S. to develop her tennis game with just $700.
While Sharapova trained all day at Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy in Florida, her dad worked multiple low-wage jobs to cover rent, necessities and tennis lessons. They slept on a pull-out couch in a small apartment owned by a middle-aged Russian woman, Sharapova writes in her new book "Unstoppable": "We paid $250 a month for the use of the kitchen and bathroom, as well as the living room, giving us access to the television, which was important. That's how I learned to speak English."
The sacrifice paid off: A decade after moving to the States, at age 17, Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004. That was the first of what would be five Grand Slam titles, and it came with a sizable paycheck: £560,500. Today, the 31-year-old has earned more than $38 million in career prize money, despite a 15-month suspension from the WTA, and was the world's highest-paid female athlete for 11 straight years.
Growing up with very little has influenced how she manages her millions today, she tells CNBC Make It. Despite her success on the court, she plans for the future as if her tennis career could end tomorrow. That's part of the reason she launched her candy company, Sugarpova, in 2012, with the long-term goal of building it into a lifestyle brand after leaving tennis.
"When you're young and you're successful and you're doing well and things are automatic for you in your life, you tend to think that that will continue for years on end," says Sharapova, who overcame a serious shoulder injury in 2008. "It's important to also be realistic about what can happen tomorrow; about injuries; about someone leaving your company; about another company coming in and being a competitor of yours."
The self-made millionaire has also realized that "money ultimately doesn't bring you the happiness that people from the outside might see," she says. "Of course, it allows you to buy more materialistic products, but all of those things are very temporary."
Sharapova sat down with Make It to discuss who taught her about money, what she refuses to splurge on and more.
CNBC Make It: What is your first money memory?
Maria Sharapova: It must have been when my mom handed over a stuffed rabbit animal at a New Year's Eve party and told me not to tell my father because it was pricier than what he would have wanted to spend on a gift.
Who taught you about money?
Probably my parents. They were very influential in the decisions that I made from a very young age and I think that was a very great thing.
How much was your first allowance?
I don't think it was more than like $5 or $6 a week, if that.
What was your first job?
Being a tennis player.
What was your first car and how much was it?
I didn't own my first car until, I think, one of my first car sponsorship deals. But my first family car was a run-down Honda and I remember pressing, actually pressing the automatic window button, and I was like, "I've never seen that before. That's pretty cool."
What do you refuse to splurge on?
I'm not a fan of yachts. ... The perception of people when they have money is that they spend it on a yacht during the summer. I'd rather be on land.
What is the cheapest thing that brings you joy?
Laughter. Hugs. They're all free.
What is money?
Money is temporary.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.
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